So the idea was that I'd go through the league and point out the degree to which sometimes preparation and the draft are humorously meaningless, specifically by pointing out examples of paired players, one of whom is performing as well or better than another despite being acquired for far fewer resources. For example, on my own club, I'd taken Jarrod Saltalamacchia as my first catcher, feeling happy that I'd gotten him for just three bucks. I then picked up Jason Varitek in the serpentine portion of the 'reserve draft', which means I didn't spend a virtual dime for him. Now, after five weeks, Varitek is actually leading my team in home runs hit while active, while Saltalamacchia, sent to AAA by the Rangers, sits in the free agent pile.
In which a perfeclty good essay topic is shot to heck by despair.
I figured such an exercise might be good for a few chuckles, and it might even provide some insight -- the top teams, I posited, combined their pre-draft analysis with a little bit more luck than us lowly bottomfeeders and thus didn't end up wasting a lot of resources on non-productive players as compared to productive ones.
It only took a glance through the league-leading roster to prove me wrong.
Currently, the TTFBL leader after five weeks is Mike Fix's 'Nathan's Elbow'. It's not really even close -- as of the end of play Sunday night, there was more distance between Fix's team and the #2 team in the league in terms of rotisserie points than there was between the #2 team and the #9 team. They have the most batting points in the league. They have the most pitching points in the league. Of the six batting stats, they lead in just one, but are lower than third in just one as well. In pitching, they lead in just one category and are no lower than sixth in any other stat. I'm on record as being opposed to the gratuitous use of the word 'dominate' in sports circles, but using it here wouldn't be terribly gratuitous -- the Elbow is seriously dominating this league right now.
And while I mocked a few players a couple of weeks ago, suggesting that they wouldn't keep up their hot starts, the truth is that now, looking at the numbers, far fewer of the guys on that roster look like they're way over their heads, and the few that do look that way are balanced by guys who haven't yet hit their stride. Sure, not a lot of people were expecting Jorge Posada to have five homers and an OPS close to 900, but unless his legs fall off, a season above his career norms of 25 homers and an 860 OPS don't seem outrageous. And while Geovany Soto probably won't keep up his .350/1000+ pace all year, neither is it lilely that Carlos Pena will keep hitting below the Mendoza Line.
On the pitching side, people probably weren't expecting Ubaldo Jimanez to win six of his first seven starts with an ERA below one, but he was discussed as one of a handful of candidates for NL Cy Young prior to the season, so again, barring disaster, he's likely to keep up a solid if less godly pace all year. Likewise, Yovani Gallardo of Milwaukee and James Shields of Tampa Bay may not have been early Cy candidates, but they were known power arms with upside and well worth taking a flyer on, if you'd done your homework.
And that's where it gets outlandish. See, while the rest of us were spending $52 on Joe Mauer or $40 on Ian Kinsler, Fix organized his whole draft around grabbing these non-big-name, high upside guys, and getting them cheap. Jimanez, the now front-runner for NL Cy Young? Went for $14. Joey Votto, the Reds slugger Fix is using as his backup first baseman (and starting 'corner infielder')? Went for $18, as did his starter Pena. In fact, the only player on Fix's roster who went for more than $18 is starting pitcher Gallardo, who went for $24 (or $2 more than my own top starter, Matt Cain, which I was deliriously happy about at the time).
How about adding insult to injury? Alex Gonzalez, the Blue Jay shortstop with ten homers and 27 RBI, was a free agent pickup, and isn't even starting right now, possibly because he's only got a .300 on-base percentage. And with this team not showing even the least weakness, the odds of acquiring Gonzalez in trade? Miniscule at best, I'd have to imagine.
Ladies and gentlemen, unless disaster strikes, it's a race for second in the TTFBL this year.
We also appear to have our first dropout of the season. All Glove...All The Time, owned by Max Donsker, is showing us all what happens when your roster isn't legal -- you don't get credit for your team stats. Glove has credit for 328 team at-bats thus far in 2010 (most other teams collect more than that in a week's play) and just 36 1/3 innings pitched. Astonishingly, Glove isn't dead last in either pitching or batting points, thanks largely to rate stats -- his .350 team OBP puts him fourth in the league, which allows him to be just second-from-the-bottom on offense, while his club's 3.96 ERA puts him square in the middle of that pack, allowing him to just squeeze into second-to-last in pitching. Still, his season is likely done thanks to his club's counting stats, based solely on lack of ABs and IPs. To give just one example: my own Golden Thieves are tied for second-fewest homers in the league thus far with 33. Glove has amassed just 8. If he were to suddenly reappear and just lead his team out of the second division, it'd count as one of the more miraculous pieces of comebackery in the history of Rotisserie baseball, I'd have to think.
As for your not-so-humble scribe's humble team? Well, the Golden Thieves are climbing the ladder, thanks in part to the return of Ian Kinsler to the land of the living and playing, as well as a lucky $1 investment in Phil Hughes beginning to pay off. We've climbed to 11th place and are knocking at the door of 10th.
Which, sadly, is just about the extent of the excitement I'm expecting out of this season, at least until Carlos Beltran starts running again.